Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloweeen in Vegas v3.0

This is our third Halloween in Vegas. Here's what the girls looked like tonight as they went about shaking down the neighbors for candy.

Fiona as the Half-Devil/Half-Angel:

Nora as Velma (from Scooby-Doo):

The girls together:

I got to trick-or-treat with Nora while Fiona was at a Halloween party, and the reaction to her costume was universally positive. We thought about trying to darken her hair a bit, but out on the streets nobody knew the difference. And yes, that is her normal haircut -- who knew that Velma would be such a trendsetter? The highlight of my evening was when Nora dropped her specs, and in true Velma fashion said, "My glasses!" If only she could have stumbled upon a monster's foot while groping for them, life truly would have imitated art.

As for Fiona, we'd been discussing ways to make this costume from scratch since about a month ago when she came up with the idea. Fortunately for all of us, we found this version at one of the ubiquitous Halloween superstores that spring up in the strip malls here around September 15. I told her it's a perfect match for her personality and she couldn't argue with that. It's also the first non-Vegas costume she's worn since we came out here -- two years ago she was a die, and last year she was the queen of hearts. Then again, you could argue that this costume is extremely reflective of life in Las Vegas.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Well, that was quick

So much for a memorable World Series. Even being at Coors Field the last two days, I have few memories of the Boston sweep, because nothing memorable really happened. Matt Holliday's 3-run homer in the 7th inning on Saturday was a big moment, but quickly became a moot point when the Sox matched it with a 3-spot of their own in the 8th. And the Atkins home run gave the Rockies a little life in last night's game, but they just had no shot against Papelbon.

I think I actually missed the biggest story of the night by being at the park instead of watching it on TV. A-Rod's announcement that he will opt for free agency instead of returning to the Yankees is causing a big fuss among the national talkers today, because he and agent Scott Boras felt they had to thrust themselves into the conversation with the Red Sox two innings away from another World Series win. That's par for the course with Boras, and the overreaction to this ploy says more about the country's collective dislike for A-Rod and the deep-seated inferiority complex among Red Sox fans, who seem to be happiest when they have something to complain about.

A couple of media notes to wrap this up with a bow: If you've grown weary of the long World Series games, send an angry note to the fine people at FOX. At the stadium, the between-inning breaks seem interminable, I'm guessing because FOX gets to squeeze in an extra 30-second commercial every break, including pitching changes, which are numerous in the postseason when every manager knows the world is watching to see what a brilliant tactician he is.

Also, I listened to some post-game shows on the radio last night and they were pretty bad -- I think Minnesota sports fans are spoiled with KFAN. Maybe they don't talk 100 percent sports, but for the most part they know what they're talking about when they talk about sports. One guy on a Denver radio show last night -- the host, mind you -- thought that Troy Tulowitzki's rough World Series would hurt his chances to win the Rookie of the Year (the voting is conducted before the postseason starts), and when a caller said Matt Holliday should be the MVP, the host didn't know that Jimmy Rollins was his main competition, and he thought Prince Fielder was probably going to win it because he hit 29 home runs this year. I don't know, maybe he was stoned, but it was terrible.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

5-teamer, distraction-style

I won't be paying much attention to the NFL this weekend, what with my trip to Denver for the World Series and all, so here's what I'm hoping occurs in my absence from the front of my TV:

Colts -6.5 at Panthers
Colts/Panthers over 44.5
Giants -9.5 vs. Dolphins in London (which could be an entry of its own)
Bucs -3.5 vs. Jaguars
Bills +2.5 at Jets

Carry on.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The ex-Twin factor

Baseball fans have always looked for an edge in determining the World Series winner. One popular notion is that the team with fewer ex-Cubs will win. So, let's look at it from an ex-Twin perspective. I'm still not sure if more or fewer ex-Twins will get you over the hump, but regardless, here are the former Minnesota ballplayers still toiling under the October skies:

Boston -- Bobby Kielty, David Ortiz (and Jason Varitek was a former first-round draft pick of the Twins but never signed)

Colorado -- LaTroy Hawkins

Considering how the Rockies have done so far in the playoffs (Phillies -- J.D. Durbin, Kyle Lohse, J.C. Romero; Arizona -- Jeff Cirillo, Augie Ojeda), you've got to like Colorado again.

All of this is a round-about way of mentioning that I'm going to be in Denver for the middle three games of the Series. I'm writing a couple of feature articles for magazines based in Colorado and Boston, and I've got a credential, so it didn't take much arm-twisting to get me there. WHIH will post from Coors Field when possible. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Peter King and the preemptive strike

Peter King is one of the top football commentators in the country. He writes for Sports Illustrated, appears on HBO and NBC to discuss the NFL, and his "Monday Morning Quarterback" column on has become a must-read to the country's NFL fans.

Plus, he's a good guy, because he'll occasionally take a call from a nameless Viking Update writer and offer his take on the Purple.

Every Tuesday, he pens a follow-up to his MMQB column that responds to reader e-mail reactions to MMQB. He also usually tosses in a few new points, like his first item today, a preemptive strike for the ages that I hope gets posted on the bulletin board in the Colts' locker room:

I don't want to hear one thing from a Colt in the next two weeks along the lines of: "Nobody is giving us any credit. Everybody's jumping on the Patriot bandwagon, and people seem to forget we won the Super Bowl last year. We're getting dissed.''
Excellent point. All too often, players fall back on this straw-man argument and end up sounding like scared, petulant little children. This isn't a comment on the Colts, per se, but on all athletes in general. It will be interesting to see if the Colts, led by one of the classiest people in all of sports (Tony Dungy), will be able to resist this tired, fake motivational ploy.

While we're on the subject of the NFL, I went 3-for-5 last week, losing with the Raiders at home and Steelers on the road. I'd make those same picks every week, as I think both losses were flukes. We'll see what this week holds ...

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Remember when the big wave of the neoChristian movement a few years ago centered around those silly bracelets sporting the question, "WWJD?" Sure, they turned into more of a fashion statement and status symbol among the bible-camping tween girl crowd, but those initials stuck with us and are now part of our collective vocabulary.

That being said, I think it's time to introduce a new set of bracelets, t-shirts and bumper stickers with this slogan: "WWJRD?

As in, "What Would Jesus Really Do?"

I'm not going to get sidetracked here with a screed about the hypocrisy glaringly evident among so-called Christian politicians and fundamentalist megachurch leaders whose public statements often don't match their private actions, much to the rightful chagrin of those who've voted for them or pumped billions into their collection baskets.

No, this post is inspired by the actions of regular, every-day Christians, salt-of-the-earth types who want to shove their religion down the throats of their fellow citizens at every turn. Recently, I saw a car sporting a decal of "Calvin" from comic strip fame kneeling reverently before a cross.

Of course, this is merely an offshoot of the numerous "Calvin pissing" decals, in which the cheeky young lad relieves himself on various symbols that somehow have offended the car's owner -- rival automobile manufacturers, sports teams, even Osama bin Laden. I recently read an article about the creator of Calvin & Hobbes, Bill Watterson, in which I was not surprised to learn that not only was he not involved in creating these decals, nor does he receive any royalties from them, he would like the practice to cease and desist, but the legal fees associated with such a Quixotic battle would be overwhelming.

So, getting back to my main point, what does this have to do with "WWJRD?" Well, I know one thing Jesus wouldn't do ...


Ya morons.

The 5-teamer, Week 7-style

Here's who fans of WHIH must root for on Sunday, because I'm ready to spend the rest of the season playing with the house's money:

Bills +3.5 vs. Ravens
Raiders -2.5 vs. Chiefs
Steelers -3.5 at Denver
Patriots -16.5 at Miami
Bengals/Jets over 46.5

I'm not really confident in any of these, and hope the handicapping gods will look kindly upon me this week. O great handicapping gods, I will leave you this gift of cookies for you in a show of my true gratitude. If you want me to eat them for you, give me no signal.

Thy will be done. Mmmm ... cookies ....

Sweet Jaysus, Lawd A'mighty

What else can you say about the breathtaking incompetence displayed by my alma mater on the gridiron? Well, other than wondering if is available, that is.

I was prepared to see the Gophers lose to North Dakota State today. I mean, the Bison are the No. 1 team in the nation at their tier of schools -- formerly Division I-AA, now the Football Championship Cul-de-Sac. And the Gophers are truly bad.

But I was not prepared to be so frustrated with the way the Gophers lost. Maybe I haven't watched enough of their games lately. Maybe they've been playing this way all year. But I don't think so. They were flat-out embarrassing today. There's no other way to describe it.

With 30 seconds left in the first half, they were tied 14-14 and I thought that was about as it should be -- a bad D1 team is about equal to a great D1-AA. But then the Gophers allowed a slow, slower and even slower glorified fullback to scamper up the gut for 70 yards, setting up a free field goal.

Then the second half started, and the mistakes mounted. They could have downed a punt at the NDSU 2-yard line, but Steve Davis couldn't catch a ball that was falling softly into his hands on the bounce with nobody around him (in part, because he inexplicably leaped into the air like he was going for a rebound). They dropped passes. They couldn't tackle. They committed penalties. They threw interceptions. And finally, they roughed the punter when they had one last chance to save their own butts.

People are already saying the teams were equal, or that the Bison had better talent. I'm not buying it. That lets Tim Brewster off the hook too easily. This team has been ill-prepared all season, no more glaringly so than today. They let the Bison gain almost 40 yards on the ground. And despite what the morons in the booth were saying all game, that Roehl kid is NOT fast! You don't have to be fast to gain 15 yards when you aren't touched until you're 12 yards past the line of scrimmage. The defense was out of position all game. The line couldn't get off their blocks, the linebackers were clueless, and the secondary was nowhere to be seen.

The offense wasn't much better. The D couldn't catch its breath in the second half because the offense kept going 3-and-out. But the blame for this one falls squarely on the shoulders of the coaching staff. If you get beat because both teams played well and the other team just scored more points, I can accept that. But NDSU missed two field goals, coughed up a fumble that led to a Minnesota TD, and roughed the passer to extend another Gopher TD drive. They didn't play particularly well.

And when a Division I-AA team leaves the door open for their opponent to beat them, and Division I team should take care of business with ease. Even a terrible Division I team.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

NFL Week 6: What we learned

Ugh. I've been putting this off, because I'm getting weary of revisiting my mediocrity. But I have to do it, so here goes: 1-for-5 on the parlay, with the Vikings' offensive explosion blowing two of the picks, and the Patriots continuing to be the bedrock. Jeez, that was the ugliest yet.

We also learned that Adrian Peterson is the real deal; the Chargers might be back after all; the AFC might be dominant, but the AFC East is the worst division in football; Vinny Testaverde -- who was a week old when JFK was shot -- can still get it done; the Saints at least have a pulse; and the Falcons do not.

One other comment: readers of Bill Simmons, a.k.a. ESPN's Sports Guy, know by now that he's become obsessed with the Patriots' supposed mistreatment by the national media in the wake of their signal-taping scandal. His latest column about it was filled with angst and petulance and paranoia, and it's getting a little bit old. He's turning this into such a "we're the victim" story that I am growing weary of reading him these days. I still love his writing, but he's dead wrong about this one.

For one thing, the Pats got off easy, even if every team does this and they were the only ones who were caught. And this whole idea that everybody hates the Patriots now, that they're the Cobra Kai Yankees, as he put it? Ridiculous. Maybe I'm jaded by living in Vegas, but around here, everybody's favorite team is the team who brings home their bets, and the Patriots are now 6-0 against the spread. Vegas can't keep up with them -- they put out a line, it moves up by a point or two as the money flows in on New England, and the Pats still cover with ease. So I love the Patriots, and I think even non-gamblers love watching what they're doing this year.

So Billy boy, your team is not universally loathed. You're not the villains, the NFL version of the Yankees, and you're certainly not the victims in this whole taping scandal. So please, give it a rest and get back to obsessing about the fading careers of former child stars, the genius of Isiah Thomas, and the reality show du jour. Victimization does not become you.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

NFL Week 6: The Parlay

Here's the parlay for Week 6 -- I was in a rush because I'm heading back to Minnesota on Friday and trying to get a ton of stuff done today, so I didn't even put that much thought into it. Maybe that'll be the magic formula.

Bengals -2.5 at KC
Bears -5.5 vs. Minnesota
Bears/Vikings under 37.5
Rams +9.5 at Baltimore
Patriots -5.5 at Dallas

Biggest concern: Rams, of course, but I thought Gus was frisky enough on Sunday to move the ball on the Ravens, and Baltimore's offense shouldn't be able to beat anybody by 10 points.

The shoe-in is the Patriots. They just don't not cover. Or, as any of a number of self-important windbag football announcers today might say, "I'm not so sure I don't think there's not a chance of the Patriots not covering this week."

Only in Vegas: Moment #354

I was just trying to set up an interview with a woman known as "the running reverend" -- she's going to be marrying or renewing the vows of more than 50 couples at the Las Vegas Marathon on Dec. 2. So typical of Vegas.

But even more Vegas was her response when I asked if we could chat about the event. "Can I call you back in 10 minutes? I'm just about to do a wedding."

Just about to do a wedding, but she'll be free in 10 minutes. That, my friends, happens only in Vegas.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

NFL Week 5: What we learned

We learned that I seem to have a better feel on the over/under lines than the point spreads -- I nailed the under on the Jags-Chiefs game and the Niners-Ravens game, but I missed the three spreads I picked, with two of the teams (Saints and Packers) losing outright.

We also learned that Breffarve is human, although John Madden can't quite bring himself to admit it. Breffarve made an amazingly stupid play -- throwing across his body back to the middle of the field, deep in his own territory, with the Packers dominating the Bears and leading by 10 in the third quarter -- but in the wake of the play, all Madden could do was talk about what a great defensive play Brian Urlacher made for coming up with the interception.

I tell ya, if I'd gone 4-for-4 on my parlay during the day and only needed that Packers cover to cash my ticket, I'd have driven through the night, arrived in Green Bay sometime on Monday and personally throttled Breffarve. Well, OK, no I wouldn't have, but that was just a brain-dead play. Now, can we finally put to bed this nonsense that somehow Breffarve is a different quarterback this year, that he's turned himself into a conservative game-manager type of player, rather than the free-wheeling gunslinger he's been in the past 15 years? To borrow a phrase from the Calcutta Clipper himself, Breffarve is who we thought he was!

We also learned that the Patriots cannot not cover the spread, no matter what forces conspire against them; the Bills cannot handle prosperity, but Monday Night home dogs are still tough to beat; Trent Green apparently got a D in physics at Indiana; the Stillers are a pretty salty home squad; the Lions are a pretty horrible road squad; the Browns might be pesky this year; the Colts have a nice jayvee team too; the Chargers have a pulse; the Broncos are an 0-5 team that has two wins thanks to some quirky field-goal shenanigans; and the Vikings finally figured out a way to get through a week without a turnover.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Steve Earle, folk hero

Steve Earle has always been a folk hero of sorts -- to the liberal/libertarian-leaning followers of U.S. politics. But now he's literally a folk hero, with the release of "Washington Square Serenade," a love letter to his adopted hometown of New York City, which channels all the greats of the Greenwich Village folk movement of the mid-to-late 1960s.

Give it a listen, and you'll hear echoes of Dylan, Seeger, and even some Simon and Garfunkel thrown in for good measure. He also has a couple of lovely duets with the even lovelier Allison Moorer (see above -- still can't figure out that coupling -- Steve must be a gentle, caring lover, or else Allison tired of good-looking bad boys and decided to settle down with somebody safe, like a paunchy, balding, alcoholic ex-con with a raging heroin addiction in his recent past and a reserved cell in Guantanamo Bay possibly in his future).

Here's my review, for those interested in learning more about Steve Earle, folk hero.

Five for Week 5

Here's the parlay, for those still wondering if I can pick a game (I include myself among that crowd).

Saints -3 vs. Carolina
Cards -3.5 at St. Louis
Packers -3.5 vs. Chicago
Jags/Chiefs under 36
Ravens/Niners under 35

I'm most confident in the Saints, who stink out loud this year but should be able to overcome David Carr at home. I'm least confident in the Cardinals, who are dicey favorites anywhere, let alone on the road, but the Rams are just so bad. Still, I wouldn't be surprised to see Gus Frerotte shove it down my throat.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

NFL Week 4: What we learned

OK, back in the blogging saddle again and it's time to look back on Week 4 of the NFL and see what we've learned:

1. Brad Childress needs to get out more. The Vikings coach comes across in his quotes like one of those pencil-necked business weenies (usually marketing types) who spend all their time around fellow business weenies, and thus cannot divorce themselves from their own internal lingo that only people in their industry understand.

To wit: After Sunday's loss to Green Bay, Childress was asked to comment on the Vikings' final offensive play, where receiver Bobby Wade was jostled by Packers cornerback Charles Woodson while the ball was on the way. The Packers intercepted, the game was over, and this thought was going through Chilly's X-and-O addled brain:

"My understanding of the interference rule is that you can't be collisioning a guy when the ball's in the air; yeah, I have a question about that," Childress said. "Yeah, I do think it was interference."

Now, that quote did come from Sid Hartman's column, so you might be tempted to question its accuracy, but Mike Max usually does a good job of writing Sid's column. Plus, it's something you can just hear coming out of Chilly's mouth. He loves "coachspeak," talking about the "plus-20-yardline" when he means the opponent's 20-yardline, or how the quarterback "delivers the recitation" in the huddle -- i.e., how he tells his teammates what play they're going to run.

Chilly, even though you're 1-3 and headed for a disaster not seen in these parts since the days of Les Steckel, it might be a good idea to get out of the office for more than three hours a day. Come out from behind the Perkins menu. Go for a walk. Maybe spend some time talking with somebody who doesn't pepper his speech with terms like "zone-dog" and "mike-backer." Just get some distance from the game for a couple hours a week -- it'll do you good.

2. Speaking of people who need to step back and take a deep breath ... I wasn't around to hear this live on Sunday, but according to numerous reports, ESPN's Chris Berman actually said, "Rooting for Brett Favre is like rooting for America. It just is."

Now, I've always said that you can tell an idiot Viking fan from a good Viking fan by his opinion on Brefarve (John Madden's pet name for the Packers QB). Good fans appreciate him even though they hope the Vikings beat him every time; idiot fans say that Brefarve sucks and think Vicodin jokes are still funny.

But I'm long past the time when I've lost my stomach for the media's fawning over Brefarve. If you believe the media, Brefarve could broker peace in the Middle East, balance the U.S. budget and whip up a mean lobster bisque. Before breakfast. He might even be as amazing as Chuck Norris.

It's not Brefarve's fault that most of the sports media turns into a horde of drooling jock-sniffers at the mere mention of his name. So I don't resent Brefarve for the weekly dose of hyperbole over his admittedly great accomplishments. I just wish people like Chris Berman would get over their man crush long enough to provide some journalistic objectivity.

Wait, I just typed "Chris Berman" and "journalistic" in the same sentence. My computer will now self-destruct in five seconds if I don't move on.

3. I'm getting worse, not better, on my parlays. A 2-for-5 effort was positively Childressesque. I said I was worried about the Ravens, and rightly so. I guess I was close on the Steelers-Cards over (one more TD and I'd have had it), but I completely whiffed on the Seahawks-Niners over. Of course, had I known Trent Dilfer would be prominently involved in the outcome of said game, I would have stayed far, far away.

Still, I can do better. And without the Vikings to kick around this week (1-3 ATS, under 3 of 4 games), I will have to find another sure thing upon which to base my picks. Send me your suggestions.

That is all for now. We return you to your regular programming.